Hazard the hero at the Bridge as Chelsea hold on to beat Man Utd
Ahead of this clash between runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea and in-form Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, the visitors knew that any chance they had of claiming the title they had to win.
They began the day eight points behind the Blues, who still have a game in hand, and certainly dominated the game in terms of possession and chances, but succumbed to a 1-0 defeat.
Eden Hazard was the hero for the hosts, as he has been for much of the season, and it looks like nothing will stop Chelsea from winning the title.
United started brightly on the match early, and many thought that Wayne Rooney, playing in a deeper role with Radamel Falcao returning to the starting line-up, had found the net. David de Gea celebrated at the other end, but the shot was in fact just wide.
The Red Devils stayed in control of the game, though, and Ander Herrera had a long-ranged effort, but it was never going on goal.
Soon after, young Northern Irish centre back Paddy McNair, filling in for injured trio Phil Jones, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo, ran up field and his shot out the area deflected just past the post and forced a corner.
Chelsea’s first real chance came just after the half hour mark, as Spaniard Cesc Fabregas nearly latched onto a cross on the counter, but his compatriot De Gea, seemingly outside the area, hit the ball away with his arm.
Just minutes later, though, Eden Hazard put the hosts ahead, after a clever backheel from Oscar, as he hit home with his left foot from close range and through the keeper’s legs.
United would have felt hard done by, as they could’ve had a free-kick before at the start of that passage of play, but they kept pressing. And seconds before the half time whistle, the Colombian came close to latching onto a pass in the area, but Thibaut Courtois punched away.
After the break, things were more level, but Didier Drogba had a great chance to double the lead after Herrera’s misplaced pass, as the Ivorian’s effort was deflected over De Gea. However, it didn’t quite reach the goal, and Hazard’s attempt to squeeze the ball in hit the bar.
Again, United were back on the attack, desperate to find a goal, and the impressive McNair, almost in a free-role at times, once more tried his luck from long range. On this occasion, his shot was on target, but Courtois saved with his legs.
Luke Shaw, also profitting in a starting berth due to injuries, was a menace for the Red Devils all day, as he made many runs and crosses down the left hand side. Past the hour mark, the teenager found out Marouane Fellaini, who laid it back to Rooney, but the latter’s shot was blocked.
Falcao soon after had an effort of his own, but again it was wide. Minutes later, Louis van Gaal sent on more attackers in Angel Di Maria and Adnan Januzaj, and Fellaini linked up with the Colombian hitman, but his shot was crucially blocked.
Goalscorer Hazard at the other end, meanwhile, had a tame shot saved and held low by De Gea.
Falcao certainly had a more lively second half, and he arguably could and should have scored with 15 minutes to go, but his left-footed shot hit the bar from a close-ranged angle.
There was tension at the end deep into injury time, as Herrera was seemingly downed by Gary Cahill in the area, but replays proved the Spaniard kicked his foot onto the defender’s leg, and he was booked for diving.
Despite the visitors continual pressing throughout, in the end Jose Mourinho’s men did just enough to make sure they went away with a win.
The result puts Chelsea 10 points clear at the top, while Man Utd stay in third place, with Arsenal playing in the FA Cup this weekend and Manchester City’s fixture on Sunday.